Gay Pride Assembly at Aurora

We had a beautiful student-led assembly this morning to celebrate Gay Pride. Students wore their Aurora shirts and formed a rainbow while volunteers stepped up to share their thoughts about gay pride. Many thanks to all of our student leaders, Music Teacher, Eve Decker for leading us in song and our Admissions Director, Lisa Piccione for coordinating this annual event. Love really does make a family!

Here’s what our student leaders in grades K through 5 had to say:

Sola: Some people sometimes feel like a girl and sometimes feel like a boy, and they use the word “they” to describe themselves instead of he or she.

Joel: Gay families should have the same rights and freedom as straight families.

Kayli: Love expands beyond the boundaries of a man and woman.

Zoe: I love my two moms!

Emi: Freedom is freedom no matter who you love.

Naia: You shouldn’t discriminate against someone because of their thoughts and feelings.

Liam: Straight families can be allies to gay families.

Sabine: You can be gay no matter who you are.

Cayden: Transgender people should be able to choose which bathroom to use.

Ava: Anyone can be gay. Gay is okay.

Nate: Stand up for yourself. It’s okay to be gay.

Rose: In some states gay people are being treated badly.

Natalie: Stand up for LGBTQ people.

Rydell: The one thing that all families have in common is love.

Sabrina: Follow your heart, girl or boy.

Jonah: Have gay pride!

Ani: Nobody should judge you for who you are.

Olive: Being an ally is important.

Fern: Love is love.

Meleah: Kids can have two moms or two dads.

Emiliano: Gay is freedom.

Henry: Gay means you can love someone the same as you.

Amitis: It’s okay to be gay.

Zoe: It’s okay if you are adopted because it is still fun.

Alma: It is okay to be gay and people should not be mean to you if you are gay.

Alex: If mean people try and separate you, you should just say no.

Nalani: A girl can marry a girl and a boy can marry a boy.

Hava: It’s okay to love anyone you want to love.

Categorized under Aurora Blog

Welcome Home 4/5 Students

Lead Teacher Charles Smith documented an amazing week in the video below. All of our 4/5 students, their teachers and some brave parents spent a week together on an environmental education trip to Walker Creek Ranch in West Marin County. They came back more connected to each other and to the natural world. It’s a sweet look at how our 4/5 leaders stepped up to support their own learning and each other. Grab a hanky…

Categorized under Aurora Blog

From Concrete to Abstract: A Look Behind the Scenes of Mathematics at Aurora

Join us for a peek inside Aurora classrooms to see how our teachers teach students math. Our lead teachers along with Tony Cifra, Assistant Head of School, will explore questions like: How are students nurtured from concrete to abstract math understanding? patternblocksWhat math skills and habits are being developed? What does this look like in a classroom? You’ll get to see video footage in classrooms and to participate in a group math activity!

Thursday, January 28, 2016
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Aurora School
RSVP here by Tuesday, January 26

In honor of this event. We’re re-posting Tony’s reflections on another parent education event that happened in 2013.
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Today’s guest blogger is Aurora’s Curriculum Coordinator, Tony Cifra. Here, he reflects on last week’s parent education night What Happens When We Multiply? which he facilitated. It was a great night and we thank Tony for sharing his thoughts...

I’ll never forget being a quiet, shy 3rd grader in that multiplication bee. Our desks, usually lined in rows, were pushed against one side of the classroom. Asked to stand in a large circle, we nervously awaited our multiplication problem, secretly hoping we’d get one with a 0 or 1 in it. With each error a bell tone was heard and a student quickly descended to sitting position at his or her circle spot. The problems’ levels of difficulty progressed. Nervous giggles, accompanied by furrowed brows, were silenced by stern looks from our teacher. My final problem of the day was 9 x 6. My answer? 56.

Although this happened many years ago, I remember as if it happened just yesterday. In the past, I’ve managed to weave a thread of humor through my retelling of this memory. Now, after years of teaching, the humor has been displaced by regret and dissatisfaction.

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of learning alongside 60+ members of our community for an evening of math with a focus on multiplication. Together, we considered our own personal histories as mathematicians, thought deeply about multiplication’s “big ideas” including its commutative, associative, and distributive properties, and we deconstructed the US multiplication algorithm to extend our understanding of the constructivist approach Aurora students encounter each school day.

It’s now four days later, and I’m still responding to a collection of emails I received from that night. The messages include connections to early math experiences, requests for additional resources, and expressions of gratitude that our children can experience an approach that honors process and depth of understanding.

As I continue to reflect on our evening together, I’m reminded that the hallmarks of a constructivist math approach are so clearly aligned with our broader progressive philosophy. As partners on this path, we share a commitment to:

  • developmentally appropriate curricula;
  • curricula focused on depth over breadth in pursuit of specific habits of mind;
  • active engagement;
  • self-reflection as an integral part of the learning process;
  • opportunities to consider and share multiple perspectives;
  • creativity; and
  • fostering a curiosity that beckons us to ask simple, yet significant questions such as: How? Why?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a progressive philosophy is characterized by a warm, welcoming community in which learners feel comfortable sitting with the disequilibrium that occurs naturally throughout the process. Last Thursday night, on my drive home, I was fixated not so much on the math principles we explored, but on the supportive, collegial energy that pervaded the experience. I look forward to future parent education events so that we may continue learning together and also maintain our strong community as partners on this path.

With admiration,

Tony Cifra

Categorized under Aurora Blog

Hearing Voices

Every year students at Aurora participate in Integrated Art, a deep dive into a theme that stems from their social studies curriculum. This year, as part of their What is Civilization? unit, fourth and fifth grade students considered Unheard Voices. IMG_0003As they rotated between classrooms and Aurora’s Art Room, they considered voices not often studied.

The unit started with a social experiment in which the students themselves experienced different privileges (or none at all). Then, after a meaningful discussion, they decided on different emotions one with an unheard voice might feel. The Wall of Emotion pictured here (click on it to enlarge) represents unheard voices throughout US history. The goal is to knock this wall down as students learn to use their power to help all voices to not only be heard, but also appreciated.

Here is how several students described their work:
Every Wednesday for the past four weeks, we have been doing Integrated Art. This integrated art is based on Unheard Voices. We’ve studied four groups of people: those with mental incapacities, Native Americans during “discovery time”, women during the Colonial Period, and African Americans during slavery and beyond. We’ve read books, painted our emotions, compared styles of music, designed and created masks, and created a special quilt. Quilts had a secret code to help slaves escape the plantations. Owners never found out about the code! We decided on a message to send through quilt codes, chose designs, and attached them together to make a secret code.

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Indigenous People’s Voices
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Women’s Voices


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Categorized under Aurora Blog

What’s it Like to be a Family of Color in the Aurora Community?

An invitation to prospective parents from our Head of School, Abbie Koss. Mark your calendars and plan to join us for what promises to be a very interesting conversation.
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Diversity Discussion

Wednesday, January 13
9:00 – 10:00 am
Aurora School Library
RSVP here
(Adults only please)

There are many ways to be a leader, and we at Aurora School believe students should practice them all. Every day, we give students of different ages opportunities to work together side-by-side and learn from one another what it means to step up academically and socially. The world needs leaders who are as heart smart as they are head smart, and that’s precisely how Aurora graduates are described when they go on to the schools of their choice.

I am proud of the many ways that Aurora School encourages leadership among our students. Perhaps I am most proud of how our staff and students genuinely appreciate and embrace diversity. One look around our campus reinforces what we already know: open mindedness and an appreciation for differences uniquely prepares students to be compassionate leaders in their adolescent and adult years and benefits the community as a whole.

I am writing to extend a personal invitation to you to join us for a discussion about how we honor diversity every day at Aurora School. On Wednesday, January 13th from 9:00 to 10:00 am, I hope you will join me along with Aurora staff and current parents. Together we will talk openly and honestly about what it’s like to be a family of color at Aurora School. This event is designed specifically for parents considering Aurora for their children of color, but all parents are welcome.

We are hosting this conversation to connect with families who are looking for a truly inclusive community for their child and we hope to gather as many prospective parents as possible. We hope you can join us. Please RSVP to our Admissions Director, Lisa Piccione.

I look forward to seeing you on January 13th and wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Abbie Koss
Head of School

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

Learning on the Road and Bringing it Home

Our Head of School, Abbie Koss, recently had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Progressive Education Network in New York City. Before the conference she stopped in Philadelphia to celebrate her father’s retirement at the age of 85. Here, she shares some of her impressions of her trip.

It’s so great to be back at Aurora!

My visit with my dad was precious. We spent the last day together visiting the most incredible art collection on earth, The Barnes Collection. Albert Barnes and John Dewey, the father of Progressive Education, collaboratively worked on this vision in hopes of educating children and adults alike about democracy through art. It’s worth visiting Philly just to see this astounding collection of art!

While in New York, I visited four schools in three days, including Bank Street School for Children, P.S. 234 in Tribeca (where I began my teaching career), The Blue School (where Carrie Klein-former Aurora 4/5 teacher works), and The Brooklyn Friends School. At the P.E.N. conference, I had the rare opportunity to be in a room with 800 like minded progressive educators who all believe children deserve more than standardized testing and a standardized, one size fits all approach to education.

I learned that currently, New York City schools are under fire and busy fighting standardized testing and education. Although I was thrilled to be in a room with such brilliant educators and change-makers, I was happy to know that I would be returning to Aurora where standardized testing and a one-size fits all approach to teaching does not exist.

I am grateful that Aurora continues the 27 year legacy of founder, Carol Smith of fostering deep thought, inquiry, and engagement for all students. For nearly three decades, Aurora has practiced and preached about the important balance of academics and social-emotional learning where children are taught and encouraged to be allies, inclusive, and open minded.

I’m thankful to be leading a school in which students and staff are protected from the politics and profiteering to which many schools are subject. I’m grateful that at Aurora, students’ learning and leadership remain at the core of our mission and everyday practice. I’m reflecting on how we can help all children to have the kind of education that they deserve.

Categorized under Aurora Blog

Community Creators

Community Creators (formerly known as All-School Integrated Art) is an annual event that occurs in mixed K-5 groups over two consecutive Wednesdays in the Fall. All of our students have a chance to participate in activities with all of our teachers in all of our classrooms with students from all ages.

Fifth Grade Leaders

On our most recent Wednesday, our 5th graders really stepped up in a way many staff members have never seen before. They were fantastic leaders for our little ones. They helped make this day of transitions and meeting new faces easier for everyone. We are proud of our 5th graders for shining in this leadership role, as the big, kind kiddos of Aurora School.10.6.15.community.creators

What is Community?

Each year we explore the question “What is Community?” through 6 rotations spanning a broad range of modalities and topics.

  • Room 1 ~ students made Bug Hotels and learned about beneficial bugs.
  • Room 2 ~ Aurora actors did silly vocal warm-ups, played theater games, and jumped into character voice work with Teaching Assistant and voice actor, Adrian Herrera.
  • Room 3 ~ students ventured outside to practice mindfulness through nature art inspired by artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  • Room 4 ~ students brainstormed playground rules, made signs with their rules to hang around the yard, and played and nailed down the rules of 4-square.
  • Room 5 ~ students collaborated to accomplish challenging tasks like lowering “Helium Sticks” and removing “Toxic Waste”.
  • Room 6 ~ students participated in a common tradition among communities: cooking and eating a meal together. They brought home their onigiri recipes to share with their families!

Click here to see loads of pictures of Community Creators 2015.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Curriculum Spotlight

Aurora’s 2nd Annual Science + Art Preschool Frolic

Aurora is hosting this event for local preschoolers and their families.
Tell your friends! Bring your neighbors!

WHAT: A Celebration of Water
WHEN: Saturday, October 3, 2015 from 10:00am – noon
WHERE: Aurora School, 40 Dulwich Road, Oakland CA 94618
COST: FREE!

Aurora's Science + Art Preschool Frolic, October 3, 2015

Water You Doing on October 3rd? Spend Your Morning Frolicking…

  • SINK OR FLOAT with Aurora K/1 Teacher Fran Edwards
  • RECYCLED FISH SCULPTURES with Aurora Art Specialist Nina Nathan
  • WOODSHOP PROJECT with Aurora Woodshop Specialist Alex Vittum
  • CORK BOAT BUILDING with Aurora K/1 Teaching Assistant Kaiya Hatcher
  • SUPER SHORT SHOWERS with Aurora K/1 Teacher Alexa Eurich
  • POLLUTION SOLUTION with Aurora K/1 Teaching Assistant Adrian Herrera
  • That’s Just a Drop in the Bucket. Want to Sea More?

  • WATERCOLOR MURAL
  • DROP IN BOOK NOOK (get it? drop in)
  • DRY RUN OBSTACLE COURSE
  • LIQUID SIDEWALK CHALK
  • WHET YOUR APPETITE HEALTHY SNACKS

Some Joke Ice Breakers

  • What did the sink say to the water faucet? You’re a real drip.
  • Why is the letter T like an island? Because its in the middle of water!
  • Is it dangerous to swim on a full stomach? Yes. It’s better to swim in water.
  • Why did the kid dump a bucket of water off the school roof? He wanted to make a big splash in front of his class.

Special Event Schedule

10:15 Sing and Dance with Aurora Music and Movement teacher Eve Decker
10:45 Story Time with Aurora parent Amanda Howell
11:15 Play Instruments with local music favorite Andy Fullington
11:45 Sing and Dance with Aurora Music and Movement teacher Eve Decker

Don’t Sea what You Need?

For more information please contact Rachel Siegel.

Categorized under Aurora Blog

Meet Our Recent Additions

We welcome several new staff members to Aurora this Fall and look forward to new collaborations and the rich ideas that come with new colleagues. Here’s a quick preview of the recent additions in our midst.

Angelica Baraona, Viva el Español Spanish Specialist
Angelica holds a BA in Anthropology and Sociology from Mills College in Oakland. She is the daughter of two Chilean born parents, and so speaks, reads and writes Spanish fluently. She has traveled to Chile and other parts of South America many times, and studied abroad in Santiago, Chile for a year and a half. She has taught Spanish to 1st to 5th graders at Viva el Español. Angelica has also worked as a Teacher’s Assistant at Gan Israel Preschool in Terra Linda.

Jessica Rampel, Development Coordinator
Jessica was raised in the Bay Area and attended progressive schools from elementary through high school. She has been part of the Aurora community for two years and has a daughter who is an Aurora 2nd grader. Jessica was the volunteer co-chair of the 2015 Aurora School Online Auction and joined the staff as Development Coordinator in the Fall of 2015. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from New York University. When she isn’t fundraising, Jessica enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and sewing up a storm.

Kaiya Hatcher, K/1 Teaching Assistant
Kaiya was born and raised in Oakland, going to progressive schools. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she majored in Textiles. She has worked with children for over 10 years, first with summer camps and after school programs, and eventually making her way into the classroom as an Assistant Teacher. Kaiya is passionate about progressive education, especially the focus on cultivating the whole child, project based learning, and addressing issues of social/environmental justice. She is excited to deepen her knowledge and skill as she works towards her credential though Bay Area Teacher Training Institute, along with a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of the Pacific. In her free time Kaiya enjoys embroidering and working with natural dyes, gardening, studying South Indian dance (Bharata Natyam), being outdoors, cooking/nutrition, mindfulness, fitness, riding her bicycle, spending time with loved ones and playing with her bunny, Muka.

Nina Nathan, Art Specialist
Nina has a deep passion for teaching art and has been doing so for 15 years at several EBISA schools in addition to workshops in and around the community. She holds a B.A. in Art History and a B.F.A in Painting from San Francisco State and an M.A. in Transformative Arts from JFK University. Nina is trained in the Reggio Emilia philosophy and is an active member of the National Art Education Association. In addition, she works as a teaching artist at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and teaches transformative art to adults and children out of her atelier, Dandelion Wheel Studio. Nina loves to paint, sing, write short stories and poetry and study Flamenco dance.

Tanja Gubser, 2/3 Lead Teacher
Tanja has always worked with children, starting in her childhood as the oldest of four, then as a swim instructor and coach, a nanny, a mother, and for the last seven years, a teacher in a several EBISA schools. A progressive educator at heart, Tanja joined Aurora in the fall of 2015 and her role as 2/3 Lead Teacher is the golden crown of this long journey, and allows her to share with Aurora her passion for children’s literature, writing, nature, singing, community, and fun. Tanja received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from San Francisco State. She earned her California multiple subject teaching credential through the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI). Tanja and her husband Adam have three lovely daughters. They live in Orinda with their two cats, six chickens, and many visiting turkey and deer. When not teaching, Tanja swims, camps, reads sci-fi/fantasy, and cooks sumptuous meals.

Categorized under Aurora Blog

On the Occasion of Pauline’s Graduation

Get out your hanky.

The 2/3 students in Room 1 wrote a poem full of advice in honor of their Teaching Assistant, Pauline Talens’ earning her teaching credential and Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction. Pauline Talens, 2/3 Teaching Assistant, Aurora School, OaklandPauline has worked at Aurora for four years and spent the last two enrolled in the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute. Her class, called the Epic Eagles joined together with Lead Teacher, Nick Williams to remind Pauline about what makes her such a great teacher. Another Aurora act of love, care and celebration. Enjoy and don’t say we didn’t warn you about the hanky . . .

Tips for Being an Epic Teacher

To: Ms. Pauline, Our Epic Teacher
Love: The Epic Eagles

Be yourself, kind and calm.
Twirl like a ballerina.
Be as smart as Charlotte the spider.
Be as bright as the sun in the clear morning sky.
Make your students shine like a star.
Plan amazing field trips.
Take your students on magical adventures.
Be as patient as a snail crossing the street.
Be as kind as a kitten.
Be as caring as a mother.
Never say one kid is better than the rest.
Go along with kids’ ideas.
Let your students do store at choice time.
Be as creative as a rainbow.
Be as creative as a painting.
Be as creative as a pencil that’s writing a fiction story.
Smile as big as the crescent moon.
Smile as big as the Cheshire Cat.
Hug kids as tight as a boa constrictor.
Be as flexible as trees flowing in the breeze.
Be as flexible as a rubber balloon.
Be as flexible as a piece of paper.
Laugh very, very hard.
Laugh with your students as loud as a stampeding bunch of elephants.
Laugh like a lion.
Be as funny as a puppy playing on the beach.
Be as graceful as a swan.
Be as confident as a baby bird ready to fly.
Turn your mistakes into something to be proud of.
Spread love as wide as an ancient oak tree’s branches.
Be as calm as Sausal Creek’s rippling water.
Be as nice as you have been to us.
Be as epic as the Epic Eagles.
Be the teacher you always wanted to be.
Shine like a star in the night sky.
Use your power to change the world.
And remember you will always be EPIC!

Categorized under Aurora Blog

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